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Transamerica Corporation (1930)

"The Power of the Pyramid"

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Transamerica Corporation is a holding company for various life insurance companies and investment firms doing business primarily in the United States. It was acquired by the Dutch financial services conglomerate AEGON in 1999.


Transamerica began as a holding company controlled by A. P. Giannini, then head of Bank of America and founder of its predecessor, the Bank of Italy in San Francisco. As part of his vision of providing financial services to the general public, Giannini acquired Occidental Life Insurance Company through Transamerica Corporation in 1930. Occidental had first opened its doors to customers in 1906, and became prominent in the life insurance business on the West Coast.

In 1930, Transamerica and the Theodore Gary & Company, together with British investors, invested in Associated Telephone Utilities, reshaping it into the General Telephone and Electric Corporation to compete against ITT.

Transamerica, which also owned the Occidental Life Insurance Company , intended to create a nationwide bank. However, in 1956, because of the passage of the Bank Holding Company Act, Transamerica Corporation divested itself of its banking concerns, which were spun off as Firstamerica Corporation. This left Transamerica with life insurance and property and casualty insurance operations.

Over the next 20 years, Transamerica gradually became a diversified conglomerate which included United Artists , Transamerica Airlines, Budget Rent A Car, and a manufacturer of machinery.

In 1972, construction of the Transamerica Pyramid skyscraper in San Francisco was completed. The company's headquarters was located in the building for many years, although today it retains only a small presence in the building. Nevertheless, the company's logo still depicts the iconic building and the firm continues the pyramid logo on its marketing materials.

Transamerica's longtime ambition of becoming a fully diversified global conglomerate ended with the box office bomb of Heaven's Gate in 1980. Although the company was still financially sound on paper, the negative publicity from Heaven's Gate badly shook the confidence of Transamerica management; it caused them to sell off United Artists and withdraw from the entertainment industry altogether. During the 1980s, Transamerica sold all operations that were not related to its core business of insurance and other financial services.

In the early 1990s, the company briefly entered the UK market.

In July 1999, with Frank C. Herringer as CEO, Transamerica Corporation was acquired by AEGON, an insurance company based in the Netherlands. Transamerica Finance Corporation, responsible for commercial lending, was subsequently sold to GE Commercial Finance in 2003.

As part of subsequent consolidation efforts Transamerica announced in early January 2007 that it would be closing its location in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and would be moving the functions performed there to Aegon's offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Transamerica Corporation", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.